This is not the first time we have been to New York, and with any luck it won’t be the last, but a few weeks ago we left our London base in Ham Yard Village behind, to visit the city that reportedly never sleeps.
As we wandered through the brownstones, the high rises and the monuments, we found a world of coffee, character and creativity. Brummells of London was inspired by a combination of the historic dandy Beau Brummell, always known for his exquisite style and ablutions, alongside the majesty of the original explorers - battling rough seas and months without fresh food in search for exotic curiosities like our symbolic pineapple.
These days there are fewer months away and it would be rude to liken the airline food to the provisions of an 18th century seaman, but travel and exploration are no less thrilling, particularly in a city where there’s always something new to discover. In the crisp air of a winter stroll through New York we found the living, breathing heart of a city with its very own character, that proves it doesn’t matter how many times you visit, it will always be unique.
On our first day we stepped out in the early morning and the air is thick with the scent of coffee, bread and croissants from artisan bakeries, particularly as our meanderings began in the bacchanalian hub that is the Meatpacking District of New York. If any location is going to be alive no matter what time of the day it is, it has to be this, the place whose role in historical narrative was once as a bustling market-filled industrial centre, thus earning it its moniker.
We wandered along the High Line (http://www.thehighline.org/visit), a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan's West Side, breathing in the morning air. If anywhere does seasonal extremes, it’s New York. After all, a snow scene here does wonders for a Hollywood movie, but the High Line is a little treasure that gives us another flavour of the city - one that’s based on community and coming together.
The Meatpacking District is a fashionable, diverse hive of culinary pleasures and cultural riches, attracting fashionistas, foodies and party goers. For us however, it was the place to get a good cup of coffee. If there’s one thing to do in New York, it’s people watch, and in the window of Bubby’s (http://www.bubbys.com) over a breakfast of James Beard Pancakes (with caramelised bananas and toasted walnuts in case you were wondering) we watched the city’s cogs turn and its lungs inflate.
When travelling, it always pays to take advice from people who actually live in the place you’re visiting, and nowhere is this more true than New York. With the good fortune of having friends in the city, some of our days were healthier than others, so other mornings saw us join a 7am SoulCycle (https://www.soul-cycle.com) class in TriBeca (America bringing a touch of spiritual healing to early morning spin classes) before heading over to the nearest Juice Press (https://juicepress.com) for a Green Light smoothie with almond butter and cinnamon… thank goodness for travel sized deodorants is really all we can say.
Food is an inextricable part of New York whether it’s pastrami sandwiches from New York delis, fruit from a North African souk or a step into the Slow Food Movement at Gramercy Tavern (http://www.ushgnyc.com/location/gramercy-tavern/)in Union Square for lunch, right by the lively food market. If you're going to indulge, a city where gastronomy is one of its finest points is the place to do it, not that we needed an excuse to tuck in.
We wandered through the streets of Chelsea, admiring the architecture and absorbing the atmosphere built on revolution, rebellion, tolerance and really good art, but mostly freezing our fingers off. So with rosy cheeks providing a good excuse we nipped into the little boutiques en route and took a moment to see if the two pugs in the window at Malin+Goetz’s contemporary apothecary style store on 7th Avenue were in residence.
New York has a lyrical, almost literary feel to it, and while the likes of MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) (https://www.moma.org) is a shining example of the height of design, we found that by looking around we had a sensational insight into a magical world of art - no entry fee required. Whether you’re a fan or not, the graffiti is a remarkable part of the cityscape, and as the place is known for its skyscrapers, there is no shortage of vertical space on which individuals have made their mark.
It is fitting that while we were visiting we were re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby in which he says: “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” It seems there are a lot of spots in New York from which you could believe that to be true.
Of course, the poetry and prose doesn’t stop with with Gatsby. We, who believe in the power of things such as brass pineapples, are also fans of bronze statues. So it was no small pleasure to return to childhood musings with Alice in Wonderland and her storybook friends cast in bronze in Central Park, crowned with the nonsensical words of the Jabberwocky and acting as an ornate climbing frame for passing children.
We continued our wander through the park (although by seasonal standards we should probably have caved into the traditional tourism of a horse drawn carriage by now), and although not entirely by chance, given that we are fans of the late Beatle John Lennon (nothing unique about us in that respect), we happened upon the iconic black and white Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields. It’s touching that even today it still finds itself strewn with flowers on a daily basis.
Perhaps amongst the most celebrated of locations in New York is the Rockefeller Center, and the view at the Top of the Rock (https://www.topoftherocknyc.com/ticket-menu/) is the perfect place to complete our winter walk. Giving an unobstructed view of Central Park, Manhattan’s midtown and downtown skyscrapers, it is the stuff that movies are made of, quite literally - just watch The Adjustment Bureau.